Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are Champions of Europe once again after the Spanish side beat Liverpool 1-0 after an intense encounter in the State de France.
Both teams seemed to cancel each other out during the opening exchanges, though Liverpool started to find their groove, with Mo Salah stinging the palms of Real ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois in quick succession in the opening 20 minutes
Real would have their Belgian keeper to thank for keeping the scores level once again moments later when the 30-year-old brilliantly pushed a fierce Sadio Mane strike against the woodwork.
Real did eventually start to get a foothold in the game and Trent Alexander-Arnold had to be alert to cut out a through ball that look destined to set Vinícius Junior clean through on goal.
On the stroke of half-time there was high drama when Karim Benzema pounced on some slack defending to fire Real ahead from close range. However, a VAR check that seemed to last for eternity intervened to rule the goal out for offside.
Liverpool continued to dominate as the second half began but there was always a feeling that Real were waiting to strike with a sucker punch and just before the hour mark that’s exactly what happened. Los Blancos midfielder Fede Valverde burst forward down the right and the Uruguayan’s cross-shot was turned home at the back stick by Vinícius.
Within moments the Reds almost struck back, but they once again found Courtois in inspired form, the former Chelsea man diving full stretch to stop Salah’s curling effort from distance.
That run! 🤪 pic.twitter.com/BVV9pG48Vy
— The Football Faithful (@FootyFaithfuI) May 28, 2022
Jurgen Klopp emptied his bench with Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino sent on in search of an equaliser, although it was still a struggle to create clear cut chances.
With ten minutes left to play Courtois would seal a man of the match performance and Real Madrid a record-extending 14th European Cup with a stunning one-on-one save from the unlucky Salah.
Speaking afterwards, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said his side ‘deserved’ to win the competition – the Spanish champions having beaten PSG, Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool on the way to claim the crown.
“I can’t believe it,” he told BT Sport. “We had a fantastic season. We did really well. It was a difficult game and we suffered a lot, more so in the first half. In the end I think we deserved to win this competition.
“We’re really happy. What can I say? I can’t say more.”
Aside from Real Madrid’s 14th European Cup, the victory saw Ancelotti set a new personal record of four victories in the competition, and the Italian said he was lucky to take over a squad full of ‘quality’ and ‘mental character’ after leaving Everton last summer.
“I am a record man,” he said. “I had luck to come here last year and have a fantastic season. A fantastic club, a really good squad with a lot of quality and mental character.
“The season was top.
“I think we passed through really difficult games. The supporters helped us a lot in the last game. They helped us tonight. We’re happy and they’re happy.”
Most saves in a Champions League knock-out game this season:
🥇 Thibaut Courtois vs Liverpool – 9
🥈 Thibaut Courtois vs PSG – 8
🥉 Thibaut Courtois vs Man City – 8
— Sporting Index (@sportingindex) May 28, 2022
Not for the first time in this Champions League campaign, Thibaut Courtois was in inspired form to keep his side in it, making a stunning nine saves to maintain his clean sheet, with even Ancelotti lost for words for the Belgian stopper.
“Wow. Unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t believe it.”